John Wesley Harding & the King Charles Trio

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Editorial Review

Album review: "The Sound of His Own Voice"

John Wesley Harding (a.k.a. Wesley Stace) has more of a pop edge than his moniker (taken from the classic Bob Dylan album) would suggest. Harding's 17 albums feature story-driven songs rooted in classic soul, folk and rock and united by a warm croon that still retains a hint of his British accent despite having lived stateside for 20 years.

On his latest album, "The Sound of His Own Voice," Harding is backed by R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and the Decemberists minus Colin Meloy. It's a dream lineup, and the songs themselves have an irresistible buoyancy, whether Harding is singing the Cat Stevens-style affirmation "Sing Your Own Song" or the folk lament of gentrification "There's a Starbucks." Even the darker "I Might Be Dead" has a punchy melody that masks the song's bleaker heart. This duality proves to cut both ways on "The Colloquy of Mole & Mr. Eye," a quirky song about a mole set to the gravitas of a Pogues-like anthem.

The songwriter has published three novels under his real name (his debut, "Misfortune," began as the song "Miss Fortune" on 1998's "Awake"), and this literary bent shines through his music, where he captures a movement, a philosophical question or simply an odd moment in time in just three minutes.

--Christopher Kompanek, Nov. 11, 2011